Mixed memories revisited

There is need to rejuvenate cultural bond and brotherhood among Kashmiri communities
Mixed memories revisited
"It took me back to the memories of the pre-1990 era when I mingled with a breed of Kashmiri Pandit journalists."Special arrangement

Last week social media relived one of the darkest happenings in the history of Kashmir that took place on January 19, 1990. This was the fateful day when we observed mass migration of the Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) from the Kashmir Valley.

With the onset of militancy in 1988 and gaining momentum by the end of 1989, the then state government collapsed and Governor’s rule was imposed. On January 19, 1990, a quarter of a million Kashmiri Pandits were left with no choice but to migrate from their homeland in Kashmir.

The day has gone down in history as one of the fateful days and will always be remembered as a betrayal of the mutually tolerant creed that had allowed both Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims to prosper.

Of course, we need to tell our youngsters, who were just toddlers, sucking their thumbs or trying to learn A B C some 32 years back, the darkest night in our history is January 19, 1990, when this mutual tolerance of Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims was massacred.

Now the debate triggered last week on the social media platforms revisiting the January 19, 1990 mass migration of the Kashmiri Pandits was nostalgic. It took me back to the memories of the pre-1990 era when I mingled with a breed of Kashmiri Pandit journalists.

After completing my masters in Mass Communication & Journalism in 1988, I was fortunate enough to start my career as a Journalist under the guidance of a few Kashmiri Pandit journalists.

They were stalwarts in the field of journalism at that time. In this context, some of the memorable events merit a mention as a mark of respect to not only to a Kashmiri Pandit journalist, who taught me the tricks of the trade, but also to the whole displaced Kashmiri Pandit community irrespective of their anger against their Muslim brethren.

Let me share another unforgettable incident. As Kashmir was reeling under massive public demonstrations he called me to his home on January 15, 1990 and advised me to move out of the valley for at least six months.

He was frank enough to reveal that massive military crackdowns were being planned in the entire Kashmir Valley for months together to suppress the uprising.

He left Kashmir the next day and we witnessed a mass exodus of the Kashmiri Pandit community officially starting on January 19, 1990. After that, he never returned to Kashmir.

Meanwhile, in April 2018, it was heartening to observe a small but beautiful display of reunion of Kashmiri communities including migrant Kashmiri Pandits (KP), Kashmiri Muslims (KM) and Kashmiri Sikhs (KS) in Srinagar at a privately organized event organized by a management group ‘Space Communication’ under the banner of ‘Salaam Mahara’. This was a unique attempt to rejuvenate cultural bond and brotherhood among these Kashmiri communities. It was the first time in almost 30 years that the divided communities of the valley assembled on a single platform to talk, connect and carry forward their rich legacy of Kashmiriyat.

For the first time, members of ‘angry’ Pandit community invited from different parts of India during the two day ‘Salam Mahara’ event mingled with the members of Kashmiri Muslims and Sikhs to erase their bitterness. None of the communities was in a complaining mood and Pandits in particular were nostalgic in their narrative. Almost all of the KP speakers expressed their guilt of not returning to the valley during all these years.

Now coming to the narrative, which, so far, has revolved around the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley. Some plead for a separate homeland for them within the valley and some oppose their protected return.

For some time, particularly in the initial years of migration, the demand for return of migrant Kashmiri Pandits to the valley carried weight. It was relevant to seek their return to their homeland as most of the migrants were struggling to settle even on routine domestic fronts.

Now, if we have a look at the scenario around the migrants, we would find most of the migrant families after hectic efforts have got settled at their respective locations across the country. It has taken them almost 30 years of hard work to get settled away from their homeland.

In the context of this situation, a KP friend who migrated from the Valley exactly on January 19, 1990, and a journalist by profession, has an important point. He thinks the return of KP migrants should not be an issue.

What I could understand while discussing the issue is that pressurizing them to return to the valley for permanent settlement would be another injustice to this segment of Kashmiri brethren. During all these years of migration, this community has braved extreme geographical, climatic and cultural aggression in their areas of settlement and carved a space for themselves to live honourably.

How can they be asked to dismantle their own homes again to satisfy the dirty agenda of individuals/ groups and parties? This would be an extreme injustice. However, this should not be construed that they should not return. Kashmir is always their first home.

Here I reiterate that KPs are an integral part of Kashmiri society and they are ambassadors of Kashmir wherever they are settled. For over 30 years, we observed a huge communication gap between the two communities.

So, under the circumstances, what is the alternative to get back the displaced KP community mingled with Kashmiri Muslim community? How to bridge the communication gap? I think programmes on the pattern of ‘Salam Mahara’ would serve the purpose.

This kind of platform would encourage regular social interactions and rejuvenate the bond among the Kashmiri communities.

Meanwhile, the Kashmiri Pandit journalist who selflessly and unilaterally took it upon himself to guide and chisel my professional capabilities is none other than M. L. Kak. His contribution in shaping my personality is unforgettable. God bless him!

(The views are of the author & not the institution he works for.)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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